Ex-students get 5 years for fatal fire

Jan. 26, 2007 at 4:56 PM

NEWARK, N.J., Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Two young New Jersey men were sentenced Friday to five years in prison for "a prank that got out of hand" -- a deadly fire in a Seton Hall university dorm.

Joseph T. Lepore and Sean Michael Ryan, both 26, and former students at Seton Hall University in South Orange, apologized to the families of the three students killed in the January 2000 fire and for the injuries caused by the blaze, the New York Times reported.

But relatives who spoke at the sentencing hearing were not sympathetic. Thomas Caltabilota, whose 18-year-old brother Frank died in the fire, described Lepore and Ryan as "spineless princes."

"An apology is no longer noble when they only benefit yourself," Caltabilota said.

Alvaro Llanos, who was injured in the fire, said he did not think he could ever forgive the defendants, saying "they ran away like the cowards they are" instead of alerting students.

Lepore and Ryan were originally charged with murder and faced 30-year sentences if convicted. They pleaded guilty in a deal to arson and witness tampering that included dropping obstruction of justice charges against members of their families.

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